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Can Earwax Cause Hearing Loss?

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a man having his ear looked at by a hearing specialist

Can earwax cause hearing loss? If you’ve experienced an earwax blockage before, then you’ve likely noticed that your hearing was muffled and diminished for a time. It’s only natural to be concerned that it might cause hearing loss.

To put simply, yes, earwax can cause hearing loss. In fact, an earwax impaction is the most common cause of conductive hearing loss that there is. When wax builds up too much, it can become stuck in place, and acts as a barrier that stops sound from traveling into the inner ear as it normally would.

A total earwax impaction is rare, so usually there is some space for sound to travel through. However, if you feel like your hearing is muffled, and that your earwax is getting in the way of your ability to communicate, you might want help from your ENT doctor.

Earwax and earwax impaction

When we think of earwax, it’s usually because we’re trying to remove or clean it away. However, earwax isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, it’s very important to the health of the ear. Earwax, or cerumen, is a substance that’s designed to catch and trap dust, bacteria and other debris that could irritate the ear or lead to an infection.

Normally, earwax moves to the outer ear naturally and we simply wipe or clean it away. This is usually done because the movement of our jaw when we chew, talk and swallow breaks up the earwax, leading it to migrate out of the middle ear.

Our ears normally clean themselves, so for most people, earwax is very rarely a problem. In fact, if you were to remove all the earwax in there, you would likely find that your ears become dry, itchy, and achy as they’re much more easily irritated.

However, some people produce more earwax than others. When this happens, the earwax can build up to the point that it starts to block the ear. This leads to an earwax blockage, or impaction. When that happens, the blockage can stop sound from progressing into the ear, leading to hearing loss. This hearing loss is most often temporary and to fight it, you only need to remove the blockage.

The impact of an earwax blockage

Besides the difficulty hearing, there are some other symptoms that are a clear sign that you have an earwax blockage:

  • Itchy or irritated ear
  • Earache
  • Coughing
  • A full or plugged up feeling in the ear
  • Tinnitus, or a ringing in the ear

If you experience any of the above, your ENT doctor can help with a thorough and professional ear cleaning.

How to remove an earwax blockage causing hearing loss

One of the most important things to remember is that, when you’re experience an earwax blockage, you should never put anything in your ear in an attempt to clean it out. Many people have fallen into the bad habit of using cotton swabs or other small foreign objects to try and clean the inside of their ears. 

However, rather than helping, this more often pushes the earwax in further, making the blockage even harder to remove. Furthermore, cotton swabs and other objects can irritate or damage the inside of the ear canal, which can lead to an infection and may even cause harm to the very sensitive parts of the ear, such as the eardrum.

Professional ear cleaning from your ENT doctor

Having your ear cleaned by your ENT doctor is both the safest and the most effective way to get rid of an earwax blockage and to undo hearing loss caused by it. They may recommend over-the-counter ear drops, which are often made using glycerin, baby oil or olive oil. However, if you have a hole in your eardrum, this can lead to pain, infection, and hearing loss. 

Your ENT doctor can also help directly in a variety of ways. They can irrigate the ear safely using their in-office ear cleaning kits, flushing it out with the careful application of pressure. Or they may use a small instrument shaped like a scoop to manually remove the earwax blockage bit by bit until your hearing is stored. They may even use a device that provides suction to vacuum out the earwax.

Do you need an ear cleaning to help with hearing loss?

If you want to learn more about how the ENT doctor at Mountain, Ear & Throat Associates can help you, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call the number of your local office at...

  • Sylva: 828-586-7474
  • Franklin: 828-524-5599
  • Murphy: 828-835-1014
  • New Asheville: 828-458-8100